KARACHI: Despite the passage of about three weeks since the Islamabad High Court judgement setting aside the appointment of Dr Altaf Hussain as vice chancellor of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast), the institution is still without a VC, causing an administrative and academic crisis that has been intensifying with every passing day.

The non-seriousness of the authorities — in this case the President Secretariat since Arif Alvi happens to be the Fuuast Chancellor — could be gauged from the fact that no stop-gap arrangement ie appointment of an acting vice chancellor, has so far been made to run the affairs of the varsity.

On Oct 29, a division bench of the IHC had declared that Dr S. Altaf Hussain was not eligible to be appointed to the post of VC as he did not meet the criteria prescribed in the advertisement that a candidate had to fulfil set by the Higher Education Commission. The criteria stated that the candidate must have had 15 research publications with at least five publications in the last five years in HEC-recognised journals.

Well-placed sources in Fuuast told Dawn that the President Secretariat was on Nov 1 communicated through a letter that the office of the vice chancellor was vacant and arrangements should be made to appoint an acting VC.

Post vacant since IHC declared former VC ineligible to hold office

However, they expressed surprise that why the presidency was not clearly informed about the IHC verdict due to which the VC office had fallen vacant.

The sources said different “lobbies” in Fuuast were active in getting their favourite candidates appointed as acting VC. In this connection, a junior Fuuast official had “illegally” forwarded names of three candidates through a letter sent to the President Secretariat so that the president could pick one of them as acting VC.

When this got out, Fuuast registrar Dr Mohammad Sarim sent a letter to the secretary to the president maintaining that the letter related to appointment of acting vice chancellor was of “no legal value” as it was issued by an unauthorised person.

However, in the absence of a VC — who according to Section 11(2) of the Fuuast Ordinance 2002 has all powers, including administrative control over varsity’s officers, teachers and other employees — no action could be taken against the official who was held responsible for sending that letter, said the sources.

While a source said that President Alvi, being the chairperson of Fuuast Senate, could appoint an acting VC from among the senior deans of the varsity, a letter issued by Fuuast’s registrar Sarim asked the presidency to follow the procedure laid down under Section 12(7) of the Fuuast Ordinance, 2002.

The abovementioned section reads: “At any time when the office of the vice chancellor is vacant, or the vice chancellor is absent or is unable to perform the functions of his office due to illness or some other cause, the Senate shall make such arrangements for the performance of the duties of the vice chancellor as it may deem fit.”

The registrar asked the presidency to “take steps to convene the meeting of the Senate Fuuast”. His letter also reminded the authorities that on Oct 21, about a week before the removal of Dr Altaf as VC, the requisition for Senate meeting had been made through the ministry of federal education and professional training.

However, the presidency has so far been unmoved by the registrar’s letter to convene a Senate meeting.

The sources said that the current administration was waiting for the now former VC to get a stay order from the Supreme Court against the IHC decision and, therefore, they were hindering the appointment of an acting VC.

Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2019